Preoccupations of the Lower Jaw
The truth is,
the truth is a winged snake
asleep on the tongue;
and the soul, baptized or blemished,
is a gust of wind against a wind chime.
It rises when we flee our flesh suits
and kites and comes and blows,
wherever it knows,
the day we die.
There’s no supposing,
only imprints and illusions
of a head left behind on a pillow,
hair that continues to grow,
limp limbs the subconscious conjures
to make the transition between the life
lived before a life, after a life,
Consider then, the ease of how we lift,
a forkful of pie, for example,
the shift from sweet to tart
to sour in the melodrama of the mouth—
so, too, this forever summer—
the way the late leaves are released
and fall and long to attach back to branches
to feel a hint of wholeness again—
so, too, this business about silence,
this preoccupation of the lower jaw
and its ability to grind all absolutes
down to binary.
His Shaving Tree
This is the cemetery where my father’s buried.
This is the house my aunt and uncle sold.
Over there is pawpaw’s boat.
That’s M&M’s, now known as Buster’s,
where my folks had a tab they paid off every Friday.
That’s the main spot, T-Leens, a bar next to the railroad tracks
where no one died who wasn’t watching
for a train coming.
There’s Saint Paul’s and there’s Saint Joseph’s.
That’s the Boy Scout building at the end of the road
that leads toward the buffalo farm
on the outskirts of the reservation.
This is the farm and there are the pigs penned in.
Those are cumquats, and that’s squash on a vine.
And there’s the field, where when the rain came hard,
held water and swelled to the point
of my learning to swim and my cousin’s drowning.
They aren’t wasps; they’re mud-daubers.
That’s not a cross. It’s a crucifix on a safety pin.
That’s hot grass and that’s snake grass.
They both burn.
That’s twine and that’s fishing line.
That’s a show horse and that’s a Shetland pony.
Here’s the mirror he mounted
on the trunk of a cypress.
That’s the branch where he skinned deer.
And this is the bucket he filled with pond water
to rinse his shaving razor.
If I didn’t break the ground
the way he wanted,
or plant seeds the depth
he determined good enough
to ensure they’d grow
and the birds stayed away,
he’d walk at me from his burn pile,
take his rake, toss it to the side,
and use sheer leg muscle,
to erase the way I wronged the soil.
With a worn out black boot,
quick slides and stomps,
my father mimicked the harsh part of wind—
the kind of love it takes to break down dirt
to bring it back
to a plantable beginning.
Hillary Joubert received his B.A. degree from Louisiana State University and his M.A. and M.F.A. degrees from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA, where he works as an Instructor of English. His most recent poetry has appeared in: Provo Canyon Review, The Golden Key, and Naugatuck River Review. His poetry won a 2009 Louisiana Division of the Arts Fellowship award in Literature and a 2005 Ruth Lilly Fellowship for Young Poets nomination.